Interested in learning more about Open Educational Resources?
What are OERs?
Open educational resources (OERs) are teaching and learning materials that are available at no cost, with unrestrictive licensing terms. SPARC defines open education more broadly as, “… encompass[ing] resources, tools and practices that are free of legal, financial and technical barriers and can be fully used, shared and adapted in the digital environment.” OERs are free to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute – known as the five R’s of open content. In the workshop Academic Librarians and OER: Access, Advocacy, and Activism, Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, Caroline Daniels, and Brenda Smith explained the 5 R’s in more detail, summarized in the following chart:
|Retain||Make, own, and control copies of the content|
|Reuse||Use the content in a wide variety of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)|
|Revise||Adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)|
|Remix||Combine the original or revise content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)|
|Redistribute||Share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)|
OERs aim to be freely accessible, but in every other respect they are just like other educational materials. OERs take a variety of forms including textbooks, audio and video files, syllabi, assignments, assessments, classroom exercises, and more. Institutions like Yale, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon have even made many of their courses freely available as OERs. OERs are produced by educational institutions, governmental agencies, and publishers. Most OERs undergo quality control measures, such as peer-review, to ensure high quality. However, it is important to keep in mind that-- like any other educational material-- the ultimate responsibility for assessing quality rests with the educator.
Why use OERs?
As the price of textbooks skyrocket, faculty are turning to OERs as a way to lower costs for students. NBC News reported that college textbook prices have risen more than 1000 percent since 1977. A survey conducted by U.S. Public Interest Research Group, reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education, found that 7 out of 10 students did not buy a textbook due to the cost. Choosing open textbooks for your courses is one way to help keep education affordable.
Another reason to adopt OERs is the flexibility it offers to faculty.Truly open educational resources are licensed to allow remixing and reuse. Open textbooks, for example, can be modified, combined, and redistributed, giving instructors more freedom to design learning objects that suit their needs.